Who would have thought to make taro chips when everyone else was already making potato chips? While it is becoming more common today, using taro or sweet potatoes to make chips required a bit of ingenuity and some special circumstances. It’s actually quite an interesting story about a new company going through hardships and finding a way to thrive.
In 1936, Hawaii Island Gourmet, or Atebara’s as we were called at the time, became the first chip company in Hawaii. Mr. Atebara was looking through a magazine and came across a chip making machine. Having never even eaten a potato chip, but being the entrepreneur that he was, he purchased the machine and Atebara’s Chip company was started.
The company did well in the early years. Atebara’s kitchen cooked chips grew in popularity, but something was about to happen that would change Atebara’s and the world forever. In 1941, World War II started. As a result, all of the potatoes went toward the war effort and Atebara’s was in danger of having to close it’s doors.
Instead of giving up and shutting down, Mr. Atebara looked for another option for his chips. While potatoes don’t grow in Hawaii, there was an abundance of Taro. Taro thrives in the warmer, wetter climate in Hawaii, and was in much lower demand at the time. In 1941, we became the first chip company to produce taro chips.
Having found taro chips, creating a sweet potato chip, another abundant crop in Hawaii, was just the next logical step.
Hawaii Island Gourmet still makes our chips the same way we have since 1936. Instead of adding lots of additives and preservatives, we rely on quality taro and sweet potatoes grown locally here on the Big Island of Hawaii. Even today, our taro chips (as well as our other chips) contain only three ingredients: premium Hawaii grown taro, canola oil, and salt).
The introduction of the taro chip literally saved the company. It’s for that reason that we use an image of the three taro leaves as our the logo for Hawaii Island Gourmet.